Tiny English island with fairground rides & sandy beaches – that was huge for staycations in the 1970s | The Sun

A SMALL island in England was once a popular seaside resort – and it now a huge wildlife haven.

Canvey Island, off the coast of Essex, is entirely below sea level and separated from the mainland by a number of creeks.

It was home to just 300 people at the beginning of the 20th century and became a popular seaside resort with fairground rides and food stalls.

It was created by entrepreneur Frederick Hester and included a huge promenade and pier, as well as winter gardens and monorails, although many of these were destroyed over the years.

However, the popularity of cheap package holidays in the 1970s to Europe killed this off, and the island has since become used for oil and gas storage.

Now home to around 40,000 people, the island's main attraction is Canvey Wick.

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Found behind a Morrisons supermarket, the 93-hectare site is an abandoned oil refinery.

But it is now is one of the "most significant areas in the UK for invertebrates" according to the BBC, with 30 of the 1,500 species on the endangered list.

Other rare species include orchids, while it's also hotspot for nightingales, lizards and adders

And in 2005, it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and has become popular with tourists after it joined an 85-mile stretch of the Englan Coast Path last summer.

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The island attracts Brits during the summer months with holiday parks and hotelsCredit: Alamy
The wildlife on the island includes a number of rare and endangered speciesCredit: Alamy
Many of the attractions have since been demolished although the beach remains popularCredit: Alamy
The 1930s cafe remains on the beachfrontCredit: Alamy

Wildlife fans can also head to the salt marshes, which are great for birdwatchers who want to spot a range of ducks and waders, as well as the Brent Geese who travel from Siberia.

Elsewhere, tourists can visit Concord Beach to go crabbing, or swim in the tidal swimming pool.

The Canvey Seafront is home to museums, cinemas, bingo halls, and casinos, as well as a miniature railway and bandstand with live music.

And kids will love the Leisure Island Fun Park and Fantasy Island attractions, with rides and rollercoasters.

And the Labworth Cafe, dating back to the 1930s, has been renovated and remains a beachfront dining area.

People have raved about the seafront, with some saying it has "good fish and chips" while another said it was "far cheaper & peaceful than Southend-on-Sea".

Or for a lunchtime pint, head to the 17th-century pub Lobster Smack Inn.

Not only was it popular with bare-knuckle fights in the 1850s, but it was even mentioned in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.

To get to the island, visitors can get the train to Benfleet train station which takes 40 minutes from London Fenchurch Street, and then a bus from there, taking around 45 minutes,

Most people who visit stay at The Oysterfleet Hotel, which starts from £55 a night, although there are a number of B&Bs and holiday cottages to choose from too.

Surprisingly, it's not the only island near Essex.

Osea Island is a tiny private island where all of the celebs go, with A-listers including Rihanna, Stormzy and Jude Law staying over the years.

Often dubbed the “English Necker Island,” most visit for the recording studio although tourists can book overnight stays on part of the island.

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Or there is Mersea Island, named the "best kept secret in Essex".

The island has just 7,000 locals, and you can only visit during low ride.

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